My research interests include developing and applying molecular tools for high resolution and 3D imaging while studying cytoskeleton rearrangements mediated by Rho family small GTPases and mechanical forces.
i) I am particularly interested in talin, the key force-sensing molecule that progressively unfolds as force increases, resulting in recruitment and interaction with different effectors. In vitro studies have shown that unfolding events are reversible and respond to fluctuating force levels. I applied our novel binder/tag technology and built a stretching-reporter for imaging, to probe and quantify talin’s stretching events coupled to specific binding interactions at focal adhesions. Additionally, the binder/tag approach is being applied to 3D high-resolution imaging techniques.
ii) Megakaryocytes (Mks) are non-adherent specialized cells responsible for platelet production that undergo a series of poorly understood and complex morphological changes to transform from round cells into dynamic, complex structures containing protrusions that release preplatelets (imagine a dancing octopus). GTPases highly regulate this Mk maturation process, but little is known about the role of transient GTPase activation that precedes the morphology changes observed. In a multidisciplinary and collaborative team, we are using FRET biosensors and lattice light-sheet microscopy to elucidate the GTPase activity profile during the Mk maturation process.